Show Reports

CEDIA EXPO 2013 Show Summary and Final Thoughts from the Team

The CEDIA EXPO 2013 Coverage Team spent several days covering the press conferences the exhibits and attending training. The Team Members have summarized their impressions and final thoughts on the EXPO....with particular attention to 4k, Home Automation and the direction of the industry, as presented by the Expo. For full coverage don't miss the full report here and on the CAVE.

Robert Kozel, Senior Editor

After spending two very busy days on the show floor, CEDIA 2013 looked to be a huge success. The crowds were consistent throughout both days, and while the show floor may have been a bit smaller than in past years, the floor was well organized and didn't have large unused sections of floor space like CEDIA 2012. Most booths were crowded and there seemed to be a lot of dealers and distributors discussing products with manufacturers. Perhaps it was just the return to Denver, but the crowd had a good energy and a general enthusiasm that made the show very enjoyable.

Connectivity and distributed audio and video continued to be a major theme at the show. While there were plenty of updated control devices from all the major players, the thing that impressed me the most was the inclusion of HDBaseT technology into consumer Audio Video Receivers. The Integra DHC-/DTR-60.5 and the Pioneer SC-79 include support for HDBaseT. This offers the consumer and the installer community an excellent way to distribute HDMI audio and video in homes and it finally allows us to say goodbye to analog video in a two-zone implementation. It was also great to see major manufacturers supporting the HDBaseT technology.

At CEDIA 2013, there was no way to escape the push toward 4K Ultra HD. Sony and Planar were showing gorgeous 4K Ultra HD displays. Sony showed their amazing 4K Ultra HD projector which can be had for $15K. DVDO was showing 4K Ultra HD matrix video switching.  Integra, Onkyo and Anthem all had 4K Ultra HD video pass-through and 4K upscaling. Kordz was showing their NEO-S3 4K Ultra HD video transmission technology. While all of this made it look like 4K was coming along nicely, it still seems a long way off since there is still the problem of available native content. Sony has a solution with their 4K media server, but it still costs hundreds of dollars in addition to an expensive 4K television.  Like it or not, the industry is moving to 4K and the messaging at CEDIA was certainly aimed at pushing 4K to the custom installers and their customers.

On the audio side of things, there were no new surround formats being introduced at the show. Theta Digital was finally launching Dirac Live 96K which offers some amazing room correction technology to those lucky enough to afford the Casablanca IV. I couldn't help notice that the new Yamaha MX-A5000BL amplifier supports eleven channels.  This allows you to power the presence channels that Yamaha supports assuming you can find room for all those speakers in your room. At least for now, there was no discussion of Dolby Atmos making its way into consumer AVRs just yet. I asked Onkyo and Integra about the popularity of the extra height and width channels and was told that while many people don't use them, that it is becoming more common for custom installers to include height channels during a new theater installation. The height channels are processed by Dolby PLIIz which is included on all the latest AVRs.

The big news on the audio side of things was that Sony is partnering with Warner and Universal to offer high-resolution music in a variety of formats including Direct Stream Digital (DSD).  The partnership opens up a huge catalog of music that can be offered as high-resolution downloads. This is good news for music lovers and it will hopefully introduce more consumers to the enjoyment of high-end audio.  Sony also introduced several high resolution audio products aimed at helping the consumer enjoy all those great DSD downloads. Sony already has lots of potential customers for the DSD format since the latest Oppo Digital players already support DSD media-file playback.

Finally, it was great to see Yamaha offering separates again with the Aventage CX-A5000 processor and the MX-A5000BL amplifier. Despite the move toward digital media, Yamaha and McIntosh both introduced brand new SACD players at the show.  Yamaha told me that those shiny silver discs are still very popular in Europe.

Chris Eberle, Senior Editor

You may have picked up from my somewhat light coverage that there just wasn't much to see video-wise at CEDIA this year. Though Sony is talking about 4K like it's the second coming, and supporting vendors are adding it to their switching and networking products, it really isn't a big deal just yet. It certainly looks impressive when you have an all-4K signal path and well-made content like Sony did. But upscaling Blu-rays isn't quite impactful enough for me to say, "yeah, let's drop $15,000 on a new projector." 4K on a flat panel is even less impressive unless it's at least 80 inches diagonal. The smaller sets from Sony didn't look better enough to warrant their price tags. And that brings me to another discussion.

In looking at the history of TV technology and pricing, experience has shown that time and time again, anything priced over about $3,000 is a guaranteed failure. Remember how long it took plasmas to come down in price? The first widely available 50-inch plasmas were $10,000. With decent CRTs selling for under $1000, only the well-heeled cared enough to plunk down the price of a Honda Civic for a TV. It's only when they dropped down below $3,000 that they became truly mass-market. And let's not forget Pioneer. Their Kuro plasmas started at $5,000 for a 50-inch model. While they were totally worth it given their still-unbeaten picture quality, the mass market didn't buy them and now Pioneer no longer makes TVs. The same phenomenon happened with 1080P. The first generation of displays would not accept 1080P, and they cost a fortune. This wasn't a problem since there wasn't any 1080P content available. Only after a format war, multiple versions of HDMI, and many price drops did 1080P become commonplace.

So how does this apply to 4K? Well, just like 3D, we'll most likely have 4K eventually, whether we want it or not. The price will drop and there will be a new disc format and codec. And HDMI will catch up too. 3D was here at CEDIA this year, but only as window dressing. None of the 4K displays I saw would do 3D of any type; so perhaps 4K will go the same way. With prices being so high, there won't be many adopters. Sure, high-end dealers will install plenty of Sony's products but it won't be enough to turn a profit for them. They're barely treading water with their TV division as it is. Unless they can get the tech into their bread-and-butter lines quickly, 4K may never get legs. If they do, watch out. You'll need to upgrade your receiver, your sources, and maybe even your cables. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for following Secrets' coverage of CEDIA 2013. As always, I welcome your comments.

Chris Heinonen, Senior Editor

During the second day of CEDIA I got the same question from many different manufacturers: "What are you excited about at the show?" Unable to go see everything themselves they want to know what they should be excited about. This year when asked the question, I somewhat just shrugged my shoulders and was unable to come up with a good response.

Of course there are components I am excited about and want to evaluate but nothing that really made you stop in your tracks. Things were a bit cheaper, or a bit better, but there was no really affordable 4K projectors or OLED displays to be seen. No ideas that made me sit up and take notice as I had before. It wasn't a bad show, but it was more of a transition show.

I did have some favorite items at the show, though I didn't see everything. The updated Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L speaker sounds fantastic, as it has been completely overhauled. Aside from the general design and parts of the baffle, everything else has been redone on it. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it compares to the Mythos STS that has been my reference for a few years now.

Giving a listen to Magico speakers let me hear what people are talking about. It has incredible detail and the ability to bring across the smallest background sounds. Watching a clip from The Avengers tiny details, like the metallic sound of Iron Man's mask on the concrete or flames flickering in the background, are astonishingly clear. I just wish they picked a movie track that used their 570 lb. QSub subwoofer more. Where is Tron: Legacy when you need it?

The display front is much quieter. Many of the vendors, including Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba, have pulled out from CEDIA and no longer show off their goods. Sony has a curved LED LCD and a couple 4K panels without the speakers, but nothing beyond that. LG also showed a pair of cheaper Ultra HD panels off site that might have more promise by being a rear array LED instead of the common edge lit LED. Aside from the Oppo BDP-103D there wasn't a single Blu-ray player to be announced.

Next year for CES and CEDIA I imagine we will see more big deals. HDMI 2.0 will allow a true Ultra HD content system to come out. It also will allow Dolby to port their Atmos theater technology to the home if they desire, giving us dedicated height and ceiling channels instead of matrixed ones. We can also hope to see cheaper, and flatter, OLED displays and rear array 4K displays. I hold out hope for a 4K plasma but I don't know if that will happen or not.

I also was far more exited at CEDIA this year by the home automation components then before. Since installing Control4 and starting to tie components together I'm wanting to expand my music all over the house. Browsing around at all the things I can do is exciting to think about.

Far more common at CEDIA is HDBaseT. When it was first announced people were wondering if this was a replacement for HDMI. Of course it hasn't turned out to be one, but it has helped redefine content distribution. Seeing what companies like Wyrestorm can do with this lets you see the possibilities. You can run a single Cat6 cable to a room that carries everything on it. Then you hook that into a tiny box you hide in the wall to get HDMI, Ethernet, IR, and even an amplifier for hidden speakers. This depends on distribution systems, and often matrix switches, for all the content which makes it a custom install solution. For the custom installer running a single cable to a room and getting everything makes installations, and certainly retrofit ones, much easier to do.

Chuck Barger, Writer

Covering this year's CEDIA, I enjoyed some truly unique experiences. First was a Rocky Mountain oyster beer from Wynkoop Brewery in Lower Downtown, LoDo, Denver. No, the editors did not miss a typo; it was a truly rich and satisfying Imperial stout with an "unusual ingredient", not for the faint-hearted. But you will have to check out my posting on Google+ for more info......

The other pleasant discovery was the embracing of high resolution audio by so many manufacturers. It isn't just about adding a USB port to a receiver, and there were many of those, but standalone devices that are used to get the very best in audiophile quality from our digital music files.

Some people think CEDIA is just about the custom installation market, and that is true to an extent. However it is also a time for new product releases and the showcasing of products that may not be introduced officially until the following Consumer Electronics Show. While there was definite buzz on 4K video, high resolution audio was certainly making waves.

High resolution audio is anything over the 44.1 kHz/16-bit PCM two channel audio sampling rate, the rate of a standard compact disc. These file types include DSD/DFF, DSD/DSF, WAV, AIFF, FLAC and ALAC. There is considerable discussion on the merits of higher sampling rates; regardless I see it as a much needed boost to the audiophile community.

Two of the companies that really stood out with high resolution audio products at the 2013 CEDIA Expo were Sony and NAD, each with multiple offerings.

I spent a lot of time with the Sony offerings. Sony seems determined to return to their glory days as one of the dominant players in the audiophile community. What began with the introduction of their critically acclaimed SS-AR1 speakers, as well as the entire ES speaker line, is being followed up with the electronics worthy of those speakers.

Starting with the UDA-1, reasonably priced at $799, is a DAC/amplifier with 23 watts per channel, inputs to upscale CD's or other digital players and a headphone output.

Next up is the HAPS-1 which adds a half a Terabyte hard drive, color GUI, wi-fi and ups the power to 40 wpc. At $999, it makes for a very impressive 2-channel integrated amp. Add a pair of Pioneer Andrew Jones designed bookshelf speakers, your smart phone, iPod, computer with High Resolution files, or a CD player and you will end up with a very high end yet affordable audiophile system.

And finally, Sony really shows their chops with the the flagship ES branded HAP-Z1ES at $2,000. This is a player only, with a full Terabyte of disc space. With balanced outputs, and available only with a silver finish, it is designed to be paired with the upcoming Sony ES two channel integrated amp.

All three Sony devices incorporate their proprietary DSEE, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, to improve upon non-high resolution files by way of up scaling, and CD's on the HAPS-1 and the UDA-1. Content providers using the Direct Stream Digital, or DSD process include recording labels from Sony, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group delivering thousands of titles to services such as HDTracks, Super HiRez DSD Downloads, iTracks, Blue Coast Records and others.